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A-10 Women’s Basketball Conference Preview, Power Rankings & Bracketology

As we all know, this is a season unlike any other, and the non-conference slate was by no means an exception. Especially since, as I write this, there have been a total of four conference games already played, the first came all the way back on December 8. But with La Salle’s victory over Coppin State on December 28, the non-conference schedule is officially in the rear-view mirror for the Atlantic 10. Let’s break down all 14 women’s programs and how they have fared thus far.

Before we get into any formal analysis of the 14 teams, lets look at the official standings:

  1. UMass (5-1, 1-0)
  2. Davidson (4-3, 1-0)
  3. Duquesne (2-3, 1-0)
  4. VCU (3-5, 1-0)
  5. Saint Joseph’s (2-0, 0-0)
  6. Saint Louis (2-0, 0-0)
  7. Dayton (1-1, 0-0)
  8. George Washington (3-3, 0-0)
  9. La Salle (3-3, 0-0)
  10. George Mason (3-4, 0-0)
  11. Fordham (3-2, 0-1)
  12. Richmond (3-3, 0-1)
  13. St. Bonaventure (1-3, 0-1)
  14. Rhode Island (0-4, 0-1)

I also want to throw in the current A-10 RPI rankings (from Warren Nolan; the official NCAA rankings don’t come out until January 1) just to add a little context before jumping into the power rankings. That said, I would put a LOT less value into RPI metrics like these, when some teams, such as Dayton, Saint Joseph’s and Saint Louis have only played two games while VCU, George Mason and Davidson are the only teams that managed to play the maximum of seven games.

A-10 Conference RPI Rankings (as of December 28)

  1. Saint Louis
  2. George Washington
  3. UMass
  4. Davidson
  5. #71 Duquesne
  6. #77 VCU
  7. #128 Fordham
  8. #154 La Salle
  9. #173 Richmond
  10. #205 George Mason
  11. #208 Rhode Island
  12. #271 St. Bonaventure
  13. #276 Saint Joseph’s
  14. #297 Dayton

A-10 Power Rankings

1. UMass (5-1, 1-0)

This UMass group may be the most talented and balanced team the Minutewomen have had in a long, long time. I think there were certainly question marks around this team heading into the post Hailey Leidel-era of basketball, but UMass has rebounded in a big way. Any conversation about this team starts and ends with Sam Breen, the walking double-double machine. She is averaging 19.7 points and 8.3 rebounds per game, and shooting at a 53% clip. No to mention she also made SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays with this game winner against St. John’s on December 13!

Right there with Sam is Sydney Taylor, who is second on the team in scoring at 19.0 points per game, and also leads the team in three, having canned 19 already at a 41.3% pace. The unsung hero of this Minutewomen roster is without a doubt Destiney Philoxy. She is the motor that powers this UMass team, and she is the heart and soul of this program. There are so many intangibles about this player that will never show up on a stat sheet (though 10.5 points per game ain’t bad either) that just make her a special player. She reminds me a lot of Hannah Shaible from George Washington who played from 2014-2017. Just a tough, hard-nosed player who will dive all over the floor and will do whatever the team needs her to do. Oh, one more name to keep an eye on: Ber’Nyah Mayo. She leads the conference in steals, and is tied for 56th in the nation, at 2.7 per game, totaling 16 on the year. Not bad for a freshman with just six games under her belt!

Best win: at St. John’s, 63-61

Worst loss: at Boston College, 90-82 (Not a bad loss, but their only loss. Had to put something!)

2. Saint Louis (2-0, 0-0)

It’s very very difficult to get a feel for Saint Louis with such a small sample size, but it’s hard to argue with what the Billikens have done so far. Wins over Memphis and Bradley in the non-conference certainly will look nice on their resume, and it’s hard to ignore with their top-25 RPI ranking. The advanced metrics always seem to favor SLU, and far be it for me to disagree with numbers I don’t understand! (kidding- well sort of!)

There’s no denying that the duo of Ciaja Harbison and Myriama Smith Traore keep opposing coaches up at night. Ciaja leads the Billikens in scoring a 19.5 points per game, fourth best in the Atlantic 10. Not to be outdone, Myriama leads the conference in rebounds, hauling in 12.0 per game, in addition to 12.0 points per game. She is also third in the conferenec in blocked shots with 2.5 per game. I understand it’s a smaller sample size for Saint Louis than with some other teams, but there’s no denying what they are capable of this season.

Best win: Memphis, 82-74

Worst loss: N/A

3. VCU (3-5, 1-0)

It’s hard to overlook such an experienced roster and a team that you just know is going to be hungry come conference play. You already got a little taste of that, in VCU’s 73-49 shellacking of archrival Richmond on December 20. Is 2021 the year of the VCU revenge tour? Their record is also a bit deceiving, as none of their five loses are to teams outside of the top-100 RPI, and all were close games. Heck, the Rams ever gave Arizona State a run for their money on their own home floor. I think games like that, and the ECU game taught this team some really valuable lessons that will serve them well moving forward with the season. Tera Reed is almost certainly their key to success in conference play. She’s averaging 16 points a game right now, similar numbers to what she posted in non-con a year ago, but then fell off a little bit in A-10 play. If she can remain consistent, watch out.

Best win: Buffalo, 61-55

Worst loss: Stephen F. Austin, 71-66.

4. Davidson (4-3, 1-0)

Davidson’s roster is honestly one of the most remarkable in the nation: the ‘Cats have just one freshman on the team, while having six seniors and three juniors. Find me another team in America with nine upperclassmen! Oh, and their on the court play has been red-hot as of late too. Their only three loses of the year came early on in a loaded #BeachBubble Showcase, at the hand of Maryland, Wake Forest and Florida Gulf Coast. Davidson pushed the Terps to the limit through three quarters before having the game slip away late, but played Maryland about as tough as anyone has thus far. Since returning from Fort Myers, Davidson has won all four games they have played, taking care of Charleston Southern, Appalachian State and ETSU before putting away Fordham by 15 points on the road in their A-10 opener. Davidson’s offense has certainly been a force to be reckoned with, led by Chloe Welch, who is third in the A-10 in scoring at 20.1 points per game. As a team, Davidson leads the league in threes made, averaging nearly seven a game.

Best win: Appalachian State, 67-64

Worst loss: FGCU, 84-61

5. Dayton (1-1, 0-0)

A bit of a drop here for the reigning A-10 Champions, but as is becoming a theme here, hard to really get a clear picture with such a small sample size. Putting Dayton fifth isn’t a slight to them as much as it’s a “I need to see more,” especially given they haven’t played a game in nearly a month, and their most recent outing was a home loss to Akron. That said, their small sample size certainly makes it easy to pick their best win and worst loss out! That said, through two games, Erin Whalen leads the league in scoring at 25.5 per game. This is a bit of a younger Dayton team than we are used to seeing, with seven freshmen/redshirt freshmen and just five upperclassmen. Still, you can never overlook at matchup with the Flyers.

Best win: at Morehead State, 71-57

Worst loss: Akron, 77-74

6. Duquesne (2-3, 1-0)

I’ll be honest, I’ve been a little disappointed with how the Dukes have opened the season. They went just 1-3 in their non-conference slate, with the lone win coming against St. Francis (PA) by just two. Their other loses are to Ohio State (no shame there), Toldeo and Kent State. While none of those are “bad loses”, you kinda would’ve hoped Duquesne would’ve pulled out one of those. They did open their A-10 slate with an 8-point win over St. Bonaventure, and I think that speaks to the level of parity we can expect to see from this conference this season. To be fair, Duquesne has been without the services of preseason A-10 First Team Libby Bazelak, which will certainly be something to keep an eye on as the season progresses.

Best win: St. Francis (PA), 69-67

Worst loss: at Ohio State, 82-47

7. Fordham (3-2, 0-1)

Fordham has been a confusing mixed bag up to this point in the season. On the one hand, they have some pretty nice wins over Stony Brook and Hofstra. But they also got spanked by Davidson on their home floor in their A-1o opener, and also lost to Quinnipiac. I guess consistency is what I’m looking for from this Rams teams as we move into January. We know Anna DeWolfe is their offense: she’s second in the A-10 in scoring with 23.0 points per game. I wanna know who’s gonna step up and be that second woman that Fordham can rely on, especially when so much of the scouting report will be devoted to guarding Anna. Obviously graduating a player like Bryson Cavanaugh will change a lot about how you run your offense, but other players are going to fill her shoes. Kendell Heremaia has been an answer in the past, but her numbers are down a little this year. This is still a team that could find themselves in the mix of things come March, but they’re going to need to take a step forward.

Best win: at Stony Brook, 62-58

Worst loss: at Quinnipiac, 62-58

8. Saint Joseph’s (2-0, 0-0)

It’s hard for me to rank the Hawks any higher, as they have played just one Division I opponent all season, and you know, that pesky small sample size again. But, it is hard to argue with boasting the league top offense! Who saw that coming! The Hawks average 76.0 points a game, with an average margin of victory of 18 points. They also lead the league in three point percentage, at 43.6% and are second in field goal percentage at 46.0%. Veteran presence has served the Hawks well, as both their leading scorers Alayna Gribble and Alexis Santarelli are graduate students. It is worth noting Saint Joseph’s has yet to play a road game this year, but their first “road trip” of the year is an easy one across town to La Salle on January 10 (COVID permitting!). We will get a better idea of just how good this team is very early on though, as SJU opens A-10 play with UMass on New Years Day. They win that one, and suddenly you’ll have a lot more people paying attention.

Best win: Monmouth, 80-52

Worst loss: N/A

9. La Salle (3-3, 0-0)

The Explorers are an interesting team to me this year. Claire Jacobs has taken a big step forward with this team, as she now is averaging 17.6 points per game in addition to leading the team in steals. I think it’s clear that this is becoming her team, and where she leads, La Salle will follow. Also worth noting, the Explorers are second in the league in turnover margin at +3.50, second to only UMass. All that said, I think La Salle is in a similar position to Fordham in that they really are going to need other players to step up and become more consistent contributors if the Explorers are going to be able to make some noise in the Atlantic 10 this year.

Best win: St. Francis (PA), 76-68

Worst loss: Towson, 95-66

10. George Washington (3-3, 0-0)

Once again, this GW team puzzles me. On the one hand, their offense is truly lackluster, ranking dead last in the A-10 once again, and ranked tied for 265th in the nation in scoring. Where the Colonials have been able to make up for it has been on the defensive end. George Washington ranks second in the Atlantic 10 in defensive percent scoring and third in total defense. Those stats are more impressive given their outlier of a defensive performance giving up 92 point to Virginia Tech. You throw that game away, and GW’s numbers likely look even more impressive. Warren Nolan’s RPI really likes George Washington, ranking them 33rd, in large part due to them being ranked in strength of schedule. Their combined opponents’ record is 16-5 with a win percentage of 0.7619. Something to keep an eye on too is the eventual return of Sydney Zambrotta, who has been out the entire year thus far with a hand injury, but is hopeful to return sometime in January.

Worst loss: at Virginia Tech, 92-57Best win: Delaware, 61-56

11. Richmond (3-3, 0-1)

The Spiders find themselves a little lower than they otherwise might’ve been after back-to-back pretty bad loses. They opened their A-10 play with an embarrassing 73-49 loss at home to VCU followed by a 65-54 loss to Howard. Ironically, Richmond has actually played a pretty similar schedule to George Mason, sharing two common opponents (Navy and William & Mary). Both teams were also affected by cancelations from Georgetown as well. The one thing you have to say about Richmond is their balanced offensive output. The Spiders have four players averaging in double figures- the only team in the Atlantic 10 to do so. Defensively, Richmond has a shot-blocking machine in Addie Budnik, averaging 3.5 per game, and totaling 21 on the year. Even more impressively, she ranks 6th in the nation in total blocked shots, and tied for fourth in the nation in blocks per game. She is most definitely someone to keep an eye on this year!

Best win: William & Mary, 72-55

Worst loss: VCU, 73-49

12. George Mason (3-4, 0-0)

I truly believe that George Mason is a lot better than their record shows. If you throw out their two loses to Power 5 opponents, they’re 3-2, and if you throw out the loss at James Madison in which they were heavy underdogs, they’re 3-1. I think that’s definitely worth keeping in mind. This season has been the Marika Korpinen show, as she leads the team in scoring at 11.4 points per game. She also is averaging 6.6 rebounds per game, and has gotten close to a triple-double a couple of times. In addition, Georgia Tech-transfer Daijah Jefferson has been a welcomed addition, averaging 10.1 points and 9.1 rebounds per game. Furthermore, the heart and soul of Mason’s post game, Camarie Gatling has yet to play a game this season as she recovers from offseason knee surgery, but is expected to return to the Patriots lineup sometime in January.

Jazmyn Doster has taken tremendous steps forward this season in the post, and redshirt-freshman Rachel Balzer has been gaining confidence each game. The heartbreaking news for George Mason is the loss of Milica Manojlovic, who just became eligible in time for Mason’s game against Ole Miss, before going down with what is likely a season-ending knee injury just 3:46 into the game. The Patriots are expecting the arrival of Teodora Popovic who is set to join the team during winter break, and it will be interesting to see how the freshman from Serbia will fit into the rotation. Also one more stat to keep an eye on: Mason ranks second in the A-10 in rebounding. That’s a stat that might just steal them a few wins in conference play. 

Best win: Longwood, 77-65

Worst loss: Ole Miss, 63-34

13. St. Bonaventure (1-3, 0-1)

St. Bonaventure was one of the last A-10 teams to open their season, unable to do so until December 11 against Duquesne. As a result, the Bonnies have had quite a different non-conference than some of the other teams around the Atlantic 10. Their lone win of the year came in a 10 point win against Binghamton, a team ranked 318th in the RPI out of 329 active teams this year. Their loses are to Duquesne, Buffalo and St. John’s. Looking at their team stats, nothing jumps off the page at you right away. St. Bona is led in scoring by Asianae Johnson with 13.0 points per game, followed by Tori Harris at 12.75 points. It’s going to be a team effort for St. Bonaventure this year if they are to sneak up on some teams.

Best win: Binghamton, 67-57

Worst loss: at Buffalo, 71-52

14. Rhode Island (0-4, 0-1)

It has been tough sledding for Rhody in the early going this season. The Rams are un-victorious in four games, although admittedly against some tough competition. Rhode Island opened their season with a 76-50 loss to Providence, followed by a one point loss at Penn State, and 10 point loss at UMass and a 61-47 loss to Maine in their final non-conference game. URI’s offense has also been a point of weakness, ranking 13th in the A-10 just ahead of GW at 58.8 per game, which ranks 258th in the nation.

Best win: N/A

Worst loss: Maine, 61-47

A-10 Bracketology

In the projected field:

VCU: The Rams are the only team in the field currently projected by ESPN’s Charlie Creme, though, again, he has been significantly less accurate than men’s basketball’s Joe Lunardi. But basically, it’s a toss up. The A-10 is once again, a one-bid league, and whoever emerges from the fray victorious in Richmond in March will earn the Atlantic 10’s bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Richmond or bust this year:

Everybody else: Like I said before, this is likely a one-bid league, unless someone runs the table in conference play lose in  Richmond. Still, this remains a wide open league once again.

Its also worth noting there are some scheduling quirks to this year’s conference slate, specifically the “travel partner” format, which pairs four teams up to play two games in three days, swapping out road opponents. For example, on Friday January 8, George Mason will host Dayton and George Washington will host Saint Louis. Two days later on Sunday January 10, George Mason will host Saint Louis and George Washington will host Dayton. You get the picture. Regardless, I’m just glad to have Atlantic 10 basketball back, and all we can really hope for is that everyone stay as healthy as possible so we can have as much of a season as possible.

Now, on with the basketball!

Daniel Frank is a member of the George Mason Class of 2022. He graduated high school from the Academy For Individual Excellence in Louisville, KY. He ...